Last week Matt presented a paper based on parts of his dissertation research at the 4th annual Popular Culture Association of Canada (PCAC) Conference in Calgary, Alberta. The paper, titled “Seriously not Serious: ‘Ironic Masculinities’ in Contemporary Popular Culture” situated his Movember research alongside contemporary trends concerning the representation of gender in advertising and internet culture.

Abstract: This paper concerns the use of irony as a discursive strategy through which complex notions of gender are articulated in popular culture. More specifically, I consider how “ironic masculinities” are increasingly identifiable as a cultural trope that playfully engages with and/or subverts dominant understandings of (hyper-)masculinity in consumer, political and online spaces. To do this, I follow the work of Linda Hutcheon (1994) that conceives of irony as extending beyond antiphrasis, or simply stating the opposite of what one means. Like Hutcheon, I define irony as a complex communicative process that facilitates the simultaneous co-construction of said and unsaid meanings. But what, then, can such an understanding of irony teach us about how gender and masculinity materialize in contemporary popular culture? While the popularity of the “Old Spice Man” may serve as a signpost for the (re)emergence of an ironic masculine ethos throughout commercial culture, this trope can be observed across several pop culture modalities. In this paper, I examine three cultural sites through which irony is employed to construct humourous, yet instructive, masculine subjectivities: a) Old Spice’s “Unnecessary Freshness” advertising campaign for the 2013 NFL season; b) the Movember moustache and the charitable “Mo Bro” identity; and c) popular internet memes Academic Coach Taylor and Feminist Jose Bautista. The goal of this paper is to situate these gendered discourses within broader understandings of men and masculinity, and assess the progressive potential of these ironic gender formations.